Policy on Reasonable Accommodation
In accordance with Executive Order 13164, it is the ONHIR policy to fully comply with the reasonable accommodation requirements of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Under this law, the ONHIR will provide reasonable accommodation to employees, or applicants for employment, with disabilities to assure full access to equal employment opportunity at ONHIR, unless to do so would cause undue hardship to the agency and its programs.
The ONHIR provides reasonable accommodations when:
--an applicant with a disability needs accommodation in order to be considered for the job;
--an employee with a disability needs accommodation to enable her or him to perform the essential functions of the job or gain access to the Office;
--an employee with a disability needs accommodation to enjoy equal benefits and privileges of employment.
Reasonable Accommodation: Any change in the work environment or the way things are customarily done, to enable a qualified individual with a disability to enjoy equal employment opportunities.
Qualified Individual with a Disability: An individual with a disability is qualified if (1) s/he meets the required skill, experience, education and other job-related requirements of the position; and (2) s/he can perform the essential functions of the position, with or without reasonable accommodation.
Essential Functions: Job duties that are so fundamental to the position that the individual holds or desires that s/he cannot do the job without performing them. A function can be "essential" if, among other things: the position exists specifically to perform that function; there are a limited number of others who could perform the function; or the function is specialized and the individual is hired based on her/his ability to perform it. Determination of the essential functions of a position is done on a case-by-case basis to reflect the job as actually performed.
Reassignment: Reassignment is a form of reasonable accommodation that, absent undue hardship, is provided to employees (not applicants) who, because of a disability, can no longer perform the essential functions of their position, with or without reasonable accommodation. Reassignments are made only when employees are qualified for the new position, and are made without competition.
Undue Hardship: If a specific type of reasonable accommodation requested causes significant difficulty or expense, the ONHIR is not required to provide that particular accommodation. A determination of undue hardship is made on a case-by-case basis, considering the nature and cost of the accommodation needed and the impact on the operations of the agency and/or work of others in the unit.
III. REQUESTS FOR REASONABLE ACCOMMODATION
A request for reasonable accommodation is a statement that an individual needs an adjustment or change at work, in the application process, or in a benefit or privilege of employment for a reason related to a medical condition. The reasonable accommodation process begins as soon as the request for accommodation is made. The request does not have to specifically state "reasonable accommodation" or "disability" or any other such term.
An employee may make a request for reasonable accommodation orally or in writing to his/her immediate supervisor, a manager, the Personnel Director or Executive Director.
An applicant may request a reasonable accommodation orally or in writing from any ONHIR employee with whom s/he has contact in the application process. All staff involved in the application process will be provided copies of the reasonable accommodation policy and will be required to be familiar with the provisions of the policy.
A family member, health professional or other representative may make an accommodation request on behalf of an ONHIR employee or applicant, to one of the persons indicated above.
IV. WRITTEN REQUESTS FOR RECORD KEEPING PURPOSES
To assure accurate records on requests for accommodation, employees seeking an accommodation must follow up an oral request by either completing the attached "Confirmation of Request" form or otherwise confirming their request in a written statement (including by email) to the Personnel Officer. For applicants seeking accommodation, the Personnel Officer will give the applicant a confirmation of request form, and offer assistance in completing the form if needed. While the written confirmation should be made as soon as possible following the oral request, the ONHIR will begin to process the request as soon as it is made, whether or not written confirmation has been provided. A decision on the request will not be finalized until receipt of the written confirmation. Written confirmation is not required when an accommodation is needed on a repeated basis (e.g., assistance of readers). The written request is required only on the first request, although appropriate advance notice is necessary each time the accommodation is needed.
V. PROCESSING THE REQUEST
Any ONHIR team leader or supervisor receiving a request for reasonable accommodation from an employee must forward the request to the Personnel Officer no later than five working days following its receipt.
When the Personnel Officer receives a request for reasonable accommodation, the supervisor of the employee making the accommodation request is informed in writing of the request, and has an opportunity to respond to and recommend a decision on the request. The supervisor must make her/his response and recommendation to the Personnel Officer no later than five working days following receipt of the request.
The Personnel Officer will forward her/his recommended decision to the Executive Director within five working days following receipt of sufficient information on which to base a decision.
There may be occasions when extenuating circumstances preclude a request being processed to a decision within 15 working days. Such occasions may include a team leader or supervision being absent and unavailable to make a recommendation, delay in receiving opinions of health professionals, delay in receiving medical documentation, etc. In such cases, the requester will be kept informed of the status of the request, the reason(s) for delay, and the anticipated time frame for issuing a decision on the request.
The Executive Director’s decision on the request will be provided to the applicant, employee, or his/her representative within five working days following consultation with the Personnel Officer.
VI. DETERMINING WHEN ACCOMMODATION IS APPROPRIATE
The Personnel Officer is responsible for gathering sufficient information to enable the Executive Director to make fair and legally sufficient decisions on accommodation requests. At a minimum, the Personnel Officer will (1) explain to the applicant or employee or third party that s/he will recommend a decision on the request; (2) explain the processing of the request and time frames involved; and (3) clarify the specific disability, limitation, problem or barrier for which accommodation is sought.
The Personnel Officer will keep requests for accommodation confidential from other ONHIR staff unless there is a clear need for a staff person to know about the request. For example, a supervisor will be consulted to determine whether an accommodation requested can be made without jeopardizing the essential functions of the position, without disclosing the identity or other information about the requester.
The agency may request information or documentation from the requesting individual regarding;
1. The nature, severity, and duration of the individual’s impairment;
2. The activity or activities that the impairments limit;
3. The extent to which the impairment limits the individual’s ability to perform the activity or activities; and/or
4. Why the individual requires reasonable accommodation or the particular reasonable accommodation requested, as well as how the reasonable accommodation will assist the individual to apply for a job, perform the essential functions of the job, or enjoy a benefit of the workplace.
Additional information may be sought only to assure the deciding official has sufficient information to reach a decision on the request.
Before making a recommendation to the Executive Director, the Personnel Officer will:
1. Where needed, consult with a health professional (rehabilitation specialist, counselor, etc.) to obtain an opinion whether an accommodation sought is reasonable and can be expected to sufficiently mitigate barriers to allow the requester to perform the essential functions of the position.
2. Where an applicant’s or employee’s disability and/or need for accommodation is neither obvious nor already known, the need to adequately evaluate a request for accommodation may require the requester to provide medical information to substantiate the individual has a Rehabilitation Act disability and needs the reasonable accommodation requested. Requests for medical information will follow the requirements of EEOC’s "Enforcement Guidance: Disability-Related Inquiries and Medical Examinations of Employees Under the Americans with Disabilities Act" (available at www.eeoc.gov ).
When medical information is requested related to the functional impairment and requested accommodation, it is the applicant’s or employee’s responsibility to provide sufficient appropriate medical information to allow the agency to make a decision. If the medical information provided does not clearly explain the nature of the disability or need for reasonable accommodation, or does not otherwise clarify how the requested accommodation will assist the employee to perform the essential functions of the job or enjoy the benefits and privileges of the workplace, or in the case of an applicant, assist him or her with the application process, the agency has the right to request relevant supplemental information. This information may be evaluated by a medical professional of the agency’s choosing, at agency expense, prior to a decision being made on the request.
Agency officials may not request any medical information or documentation not clearly related to the request for accommodation. Where the medical information provided is not sufficient to clarify the nature of the disability or need for accommodation, the agency will consult with the requester to explain specifically the type of information requested.
If medical information cannot be obtained from the requester for reasons beyond his or her control, e.g., failure of a medical office to respond to requests, or differing opinions received from more than one professional, the agency may ask the individual requesting reasonable accommodation to undergo examination by a physician of the agency’s choosing.
Medical information obtained by the Personnel Director will be maintained in accordance with the Privacy Act, and will be disclosed only to those with a specific need to know, i.e., those who must know the limitation to recommend or make a decision on the request. EEOC has the right to review all relevant records upon request to evaluate the efficacy of the agency’s reasonable accommodation procedures.
In evaluating the accommodation request, if the recommendation will be to deny the accommodation sought or if the accommodation sought is unclear, the Personnel Officer will consult with a State Rehabilitation specialist, or other professional by contacting one of the offices or organizations listed in Appendix A to this Policy.
VII. TIME FRAMES FOR PROCESSING REQUESTS AND PROVIDING REASONABLE ACCOMMODATIONS
ONHIR will process requests for reasonable accommodation, and provide accommodations where appropriate, in as short a time frame as reasonably possible, within 15 working days absent extenuating circumstances. During this 15 working day period, the Personnel Officer will gather pertinent information, contact outside sources where necessary to obtain additional or clarifying information, and consult with the Executive Director preparatory to his issuing a decision on the request.
In cases where an applicant’s or employee’s disability is obvious and can be accommodated with little or no disruption to the ONHIR, accommodation will be made immediately (e.g., obtaining amplified telephone equipment for hearing impaired staff).
In cases where additional information is necessary prior to a decision, the decision will be made within 5 working days following receipt of all pertinent information.
Where it becomes apparent that a decision cannot be made within a 15 working day period, the Personnel Officer will investigate whether temporary accommodation may be made. If temporary accommodation is feasible, the requester will be informed the accommodation is temporary pending receipt of additional information on which to base a final decision. For example, an essential function of a position may be temporarily assigned to another staff member in the team (if assignment of essential functions on a permanent basis has adverse impact on the grade of the position occupied, it is not a reasonable accommodation).
VIII. GRANTING REASONABLE ACCOMMODATION REQUESTS
As soon as the Executive Director decides that a reasonable accommodation will be provided, that decision will be immediately communicated to the individual. If the accommodation cannot be provided immediately (e.g., the need to remove an architectural barrier or obtain specialized equipment), the requester must be kept informed of the delay and the anticipated time frame for accomplishing accommodation.
IX. DENIAL OF REASONABLE ACCOMMODATION REQUESTS
When the Executive Director determines that a request for reasonable accommodation will be denied, the Personnel Officer will complete the "Denial of Request" form for the Director’s signature. The form must state specifically the reason(s) the accommodation is being denied, and if possible should offer an alternative accommodation.
X. INFORMAL DISPUTE RESOLUTION
If the requesting individual wishes reconsideration, s/he should ask the Executive Director, in writing, to reconsider the denial. A request for reconsideration must be made within five working days of receipt of the initial decision. The individual may submit additional information in support of his/her request at this time, or may propose an alternative accommodation to the original request. The Executive Director will issue a final decision, in writing, no later than five working days after receipt of the request for reconsideration.
XI. INFORMATION TRACKING AND REPORTING
The Personnel Officer will maintain records of requests for reasonable accommodation and the disposition of such requests. At a minimum, the records will include sufficient information to identify the following:
(i) The number of reasonable accommodations, by type, that have been requested in the application process and whether the requests were granted or denied;
(ii) The jobs (occupational series, grade level, and branch/team) for which reasonable accommodations have been requested;
(iii) The types of reasonable accommodations that have been requested for each of those jobs;
(iv) The number of reasonable accommodations, by type, for each job that have been approved, and the number of reasonable accommodations, by type, that have been denied;(v) The number of requests for reasonable accommodations, by type, that relate to the benefits or privileges of employment, and whether those requests have been granted or denied;
(vi) the reasons for denial of requests for reasonable accommodation;
(vii) the amount of time taken to process each request for reasonable accommodation; and
(viii) the sources of technical assistance that have been consulted in trying to identify possible reasonable accommodations.
Medical information obtained incidental to a request for reasonable accommodation will be maintained in a locking file separate from Official Personnel Files. Medical information will be disclosed only to the individual having responsibility for formulating a recommendation or decision. Only that information directly related to the request will be disclosed.
The agency will maintain information on an individual’s request for reasonable accommodation for the duration of that individual’s employment with the agency. Information on requests made by applicants will be maintained for a period of three (3) years.
The Executive Director and Personnel Officer, in consultation, will annually review reasonable accommodation request activity to determine whether the policy is adequate for ONHIR and employee needs, or if changes can improve the program.
XII. RELATIONSHIP OF PROCEDURES TO STATUTORY CLAIMS
This policy is in addition to statutory protections for persons with disabilities and the remedies they provide for denial of requests for reasonable accommodation. An individual who chooses to pursue a statutory remedy for denial of reasonable accommodation must:
--For an EEO complaint, contact the ONHIR EO Counselor within 45 days from the date of receipt of the written notice of denial.
--Initiate an appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board within 30 days of an appealable adverse action as defined in 5 C.F.R. 1201.3.
Any person wanting further information concerning this policy and procedures may contact the Personnel Officer at 928-779-2721, or via e-mail at email@example.com
This policy and procedures will be distributed to all employees upon issuance, and annually thereafter. A copy will be posted on bulletin boards at each of the ONHIR offices.